Ahhhh, The Sunlit Night. At the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, I attended its world premiere, expecting a lot considering the cast of Jenny Slate, Zach Galifianakis, Alex Sharp, and Gillian Anderson. Plus, it boasts the direction of David Wnendt, who gave us the gross-out rom-com Wetlands. Let’s just say there’s a reason why it has taken so long to finally be released. That said, there may still be some appeal to the story of an aspiring painter who begins to find herself on the other side of the world.
Slate travels far from home in the adaptation of Rebecca Dinerstein’s novel about aspiring painter Frances. After her boyfriend dumps her and her parents announce their separation, Frances flees to Norway where she can study under master painter (Nils Auermann (Fridtjov Såheim), who puts her through back-breaking work. But Frances also finds comfort in two American ex-pats, Yasha (Sharp), who has arrived to give his father the Viking funeral he always wanted, and Haldor (Galifianakis) who is devoted to living the Viking lifestyle.
The film is directed by Wnendt and adapted by Dinnerstein herself. Having experienced this one at Park City last year, I can easily say it was the most disappointing thing I saw there, finding it to be a passionless drag. Perhaps it will find an audience who will be taken by its gorgeous Norwegian landscapes, because those are quite something to look at.
Synopsis: The Sunlit Night follows an aspiring painter (Slate) from New York City to the farthest reaches of Arctic Norway for an assignment she hopes will invigorate her work and expand her horizons. In a remote village, among the locals, she meets a fellow New Yorker (Sharp), who has come in search of a proper Viking funeral only to find that the Chief (Galifianakis) is but a re-enactor from Cincinnati. The eclectic crew ranges from “home” to “lost,” within the extreme and dazzling landscape of the Far North. Under a sun that never quite sets, and the high standards of an unforgiving mentor, Frances must navigate between ambition, desire, obligation, and risk in order to find a way forward.
The Sunlit Night hits VOD on July 17th.